A pre-dawn US raid in the southern Iraqi city of Kut killed two people, including a woman and led to the capture of six Shi’ites, which the US alleges were part of an Iranian-backed militant force. Such raids are all too common and rarely amount to much politically. Not so today, as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned the raid as a criminal act, and says it violated the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the two nations.
Spokesman Major General Qassim Moussawi confirmed Maliki’s view that “the killing of two citizens and detaining others in Kut is considered a violation of the security pact.” Maliki is asking that the Multi-National Forces (which is to say at this point, the United States and a handful of British and Australian soldiers busily packing their bags) to release all the detainees captured in the raid and hand over those responsible to Iraqi courts. The Iraqi government also arrested two of its own provincial military commanders over the raid.
The US insists the raid was approved by the Iraqi government and said the slain woman “moved into the line of fire,” but the Kut Provincial police chief says he had no prior knowledge of the raid, and police major Aziz al-Amara said that those arrested “were poor people. They did not cause any political or security problems.” Among those arrested were a clan leader, Ahmed Abdul Muneim al-Bdeir, and his brother – an Iraqi police captain. The other detainees all appear to have been Bdeir’s relatives.
The pact took effect on January 1, and just hours later US troops shot a deaf female employee of Iraq’s Biladi TV station. That shooting, and countless other incidents which seemingly violated the letter of the SOFA had been overlooked by the Maliki government. Even repeated comments that the military intended to “ignore” the June 30 deadline to withdraw from Iraqi cities, one of the cornerstones of the SOFA, prompted no comment. Whether there was something special about this seemingly unremarkable raid/killing or if it was simply the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back remains to be seen.